• Last modified 424 days ago (April 27, 2023)


A touch of science

Staff writer

Marion preschoolers were sold on a hands-on Earth Day experience as soon as Matt Meyerhoff told them it involved a video game machine.

Meyerhoff, supervisory district conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service, brought an augmented reality sandbox to Shawna Hake’s preschool class Thursday.

The 3-D, interactive sandbox, on loan from Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, helps farmers and ranchers take better care of their land.

Preschoolers took turns scooping up sand to create hills, valleys, and even volcanoes. As they did, the sand turned colors, and contour lines emerged, making the sandbox look like a topography map.

“You can’t play video games on it,” Meyerhoff said. “But it has a video camera up here, and that’s why the lines wiggle like a video game.”

“Whoa!” preschoolers said in unison.

“Has anybody heard what you call something high?” Meyerhoff asked Hake’s 11 students.

“A mountain!” one boy answered.

“I know! I know! Colorado!” another said.

Students then got off track about trips they’d taken to Colorado.

“Let’s not worry about Colorado, because we’re in Kansas,” Meyerhoff said. “We don’t have mountains, but we have hills.”

He next quizzed them: “What’s something down low? Va-va-va-valley! We have hills and valleys. You know what runs in a valley?”

“Water!” several children answered.

“The other thing I can do with my sandbox is make it rain inside without getting wet,” he said, eliciting “oohs” and “aahs.”

“Where does water run? Uphill or downhill?” he asked.

“Downhill!” kids said.

“We can make streams and rivers, and we can make hills and valleys to show farmers and ranchers how to keep the earth healthy,” he said.

He then made a volcano.

“Why do you think it looks like a volcano?” he asked.

“Because it has a big hole!” came the energetic response.

“It is a volcano — look at that: The lava is running down the volcano,” Meyerhoff said.

Jenny Sherbert, a soil conservationist, worked technical aspects of the sandbox to keep the children interested.

They, too, made a volcano.

“Hit ‘F2’ and then ‘flood,’ ” he told Sherbert. “Look at all the lava? Is it hot?”

“Run for the water!” a preschooler said.

After letting children help create rain, Meyerhoff told them he hoped they were excited about Earth Day and keeping the earth healthy.

“Are we getting it?” a boy asked.

“The sandbox?” Meyerhoff replied. “”No, I have to take it back.”

Disappointment temporarily was assuaged when one student said it was time for snacks.

“We already ate snacks,” Hake said.

Last modified April 27, 2023